Long Island Sound

New multi-study analysis of gut microbiome data from blue mussels

Caption: Graphical abstract depicting that a multi-study analysis of raw 16S gut microbiome data collected from blue mussels revealed that depuration strongly influences the recovered microbial community.

Everybody poops, even mussels! And it turns out that whether a mussels has pooped matters a lot when you sample its gut microbiome. New research published in Environmental Microbiology by the Ward lab and lead author Tyler Griffin reveals that fecal egestion (or depuration) status of mussels is a critically important factor for determining the microbial community composition in the mussel gut. By performing a multistudy re-analysis of microbiome data from several projects conducted by the Ward lab over seven years, they were able to broaden the understanding of gut microbial dynamics of these foundational invertebrates in Long Island Sound. Link to the article.

Long Island Sound Shell Day 2023

Shell Day logo, credit: Austin Pugh, NECAN

On 24 August, 2023, 10 community science organizations, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT-DEEP) and the University of Connecticut collaborated to simultaneously sample total alkalinity in the embayments and rivers bordering Long Island Sound (LIS). Led by DMS PhD Candidate Lauren Barrett, the event was a regional repeat of the 2019 effort led across New England by the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network (NECAN, http://necan.org/ShellDay).

The participating groups sampled for total alkalinity (TA) and hydrographic variables such as salinity and temperature during low, mid-, and high tides, meaning the spatial variation in alkalinity across the Sound. Seawater alkalinity requires high precision, expensive instrumentation and a skilled analyst, and thus typical observations of TA in LIS conducted by a single or a few researchers require that spatially separate samples also have a temporal difference. However, TA varies across diel and tidal cycles, so the spatial and temporal difference is important to parse. The collaborative effort of Shell Day allowed for a spatial identification of TA trends in LIS without the confounding temporal variation.

Shell Day 2023 was a successful event. Despite some mild rain in the afternoon, community scientists weathered the storm and still provided high-quality samples, which are currently undergoing TA analysis at UConn. The results of this work will be interpreted in the context of open LIS data (available through the Vlahos lab at UConn) and the data collected during Shell Day 2019. This work will be presented to the LIS Science Technical and Advisory Committee (STAC) this fall as well as to the participating organizations at a meeting which is to be determined.

DMS Kayla Mladinich shows that bivalves can reject microplastics

8 November 2022. DMS is happy to share the latest publication by PhD student Kayla Mladinich, showing the surprising but good news that blue mussels and oysters appear not to ingest all microplastic particles floating in the water.

By Kayla Mladinich.

Oysters and mussels are filter feeders that draw particles in from the surrounding water to be eaten. These animals can select which particles are eaten or rejected depending on factors such as particle size and surface properties. This study was performed to determine what kinds of microplastics will be consumed or rejected by oysters and mussels. Both species rejected larger microplastics more than smaller microplastics and did not differentiate between different types of plastic polymers. The results suggest that oysters and mussels will not ingest all microplastics that they are exposed to in the natural environment!

Kayla changing water and replenishing food for the animals.

An oyster being exposed to microplastics in the laboratory. Microplastics are gently pipetted over the inhalant aperture (where oysters draw particles in) which allows the oysters to choose between drawing the particles in or not (Photo: Kayla Mladinich).

Mladinich et al. ES&T (2022) Graphical abstract

Shell recycling will help restore oysters in Long Island Sound

On 6 October, Research Professor Z.Baumann surveys the wild oyster reef at Morris Creek, CT

By Elaina Hancock.

7 November 2022. An unexpected find of a healthy, well-established oyster reef tucked away in a shoreline park inspired UConn Marine Science researcher Zofia Baumann to study ways to help these vital ecosystem engineers make a comeback.

Oyster habitats were largely destroyed by development, over-harvesting, and pollution, but in Long Island Sound, their numbers might be on the rise. Baumann and others hope to help restore Connecticut’s oyster populations.

Oysters build habitats where many species flourish, they improve water quality and make shorelines more resilient to erosion, but they need old shells to start building on. The site that became the focus of the project is one where oyster shells were deposited. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of shells in Connecticut and addressing this problem is the primary goal.

The project brings together members of the community, shellfish farmers, and regulators, as Baumann says, this effort relies on the community, otherwise, it will not work.